Matthew 7:21, 24-27
It is hard to reflect on the reading from Isaiah and the reading from the Gospel of Matthew and not realize how timely these readings are for us in the United States of America today.
Both of these readings challenge some of the common notions of what makes for a Godly strength. The "city" in Isaiah’s passage is brought to ruin because of the way it disregarded the poorest and weakest of its citizens. "It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor".
In Matthew, the passage comes after the "Sermon on the Mount," the proclaiming of the "Beatitudes"…which must not remain slogans, but which must be converted into patterns of behavior. Those beatitudes remind us that there is strength in weakness and greatness in humility. Listening to the words of Jesus and not putting them into action will be like a person whose house is built on sand, and which will come tumbling down in the next storm.
As the new legislature gathers to make the decisions which will prevail in our country, and as we put our support behind those whom we have elected, let us also remind them that our strength will be built on the way that we respond to the real needs of those whose lives are lived in poverty and in weakness.
December 2, 2010, is the 30th anniversary of the killing of Sister Maura Clarke, M.M., Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U., Sister Ita Ford, M.M., and Jean Donovan, a lay missionary, in El Salvador, Central America. They were a voice for the poor and an expression of the beatitudes-in-action.
Their deaths followed by nine months the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador. Nine years later, on November 16, six Jesuits and a mother and daughter were executed at their residence in the Jesuit University of Central America. Archbishop Romero and the Jesuits were a loud voice for justice, and a condemnation of the evil being delivered on the people of the nation.
The United States played a decisive role in that country’s civil war. U.S. Dollars, arms and leadership steered the decision-making that kept the poor and needy populace of El Salvador under threat of death for more than ten years.
A strong nation does not derive its strength from trampling on the poor, or from waging war on a weak nation. The voice of Isaiah is heard crying out: "He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down." Matthew’s refrain echoes: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven…"
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.